Ryerson is known for its artistic programs, but who knew it had poetic potential? Community editor Allyssia Alleyne dishes on the highs and lows of the most poetic night of the year
On Friday, Jan. 21, the Ram in the Rye changed from a casual student watering hole to an intimate coffee house when about 300 people filled the bar for the Urban Hip-Hop Union poetry slam.
Poetry fans and supportive friends arrived early, securing seats near the performance area in front of the DJ booth and ordering the occasional pint to keep the servers happy (I ordered a pound of wings and a glass of water to last me three hours). By 10 p.m., it was standing room only. When the show started 30 minutes later, there were 10 people sitting on the floor.
The 11 competitors, which included a 16-year-old teen, a Ryerson student in red tie-dye pants and a York student in “a relationship with hip-hop”, were battling it out for the chance to open for famed spoken word artist Carlos Andrés Gómez at the upcoming What Makes a Man conference, hosted by the White Ribbon Campaign.
If you were one of the many who couldn’t handle the crowds, here’s what you missed.
The poems: Years of angsty high school coffee houses left me fearing the worst, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the night’s poems. The themes varied—from an Afghan love story and a piece on the Congo, to a defence of second chances and a lovesong to hip-hop—something for every taste.
Shihan Van Clief: After Buddhika Bellana was announced as the winner, the renowned Def Jam spoken word artist delivered what may have been the performance of the night, after performing for a packed auditorium in the library building earlier that evening. Check out his poem “This Type Love” on YouTube if you’re not already familiar with him.
The fashions: We all know that Ryerson boasts some of the most stylish dressers in the land, but tonight the crowd was particularly on point. Urban bohemian seemed to be the dress code. Guys in New Era baseball hats and oversized retro glasses mingled with gals twirling well-maintained dreadlocks and cute if impractical beanies. The number of down jackets was a little uninspiring but I’ll let that slide because of the frosty weather.
The noise: It seemed that no matter how hard the emcees tried to quiet them, the uninterested patrons at the back of the bar refused to quiet down and let the poets be heard. Way to go, assholes.
The lack of space: I appreciated the close proximity to an alcohol source, but the Ram was too small to comfortably accommodate the many revellers. A fellow Eyeopener editor (and noted poet) left when he found that he couldn’t push his way to the bar.
The lateness: If there’s one thing I’m a stickler for, it’s punctuality. It was advertised that the slam would start at 9:30 p.m. The event didn’t actually get underway until an hour later. Yes, the show turned out to be worth the wait, but I remained unimpressed. I ran out of the AMC without stopping at Marble Slab for some poetry, not to watch people play tennis on the Ram’s giant screen for an hour.
— David Delisca in an ode to his BlackBerry: “Our love was a research in motion.”
— A woman with brown hair and bright pink highlights: “Is your girlfriend here? INTRODUCE ME!”
Photo: Chelsea Pottage